It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation should continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus [Bishop of Rome] and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorise the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in our judgement they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics and shall not presume to give to their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation and in the second the punishment of our authority that in accordance with the will of Heaven we shall decide to inflict.
Theodosius the Great (347–395; recognised as a saint by the Orthodox) was born in Spain, the son of an army officer of high rank. He himself rose to high rank in the Roman army.
Up to the year 378, Gratian was Augustus in the West, with his minor brother Valentinian II as junior emperor. Their uncle Valens was Augustus in the East.
On 9 August 378, Valens was killed in battle against the Goths at Adrianople and Gratian thus became emperor of the whole empire. He appointed Thedosius commander of the army in Illyria. Since Valens had no successor, this made Theodosius de facto ruler in the East, and Gratian raised him formally to the imperial dignity as Augustus on 19 January 379.
The West was devoted to Nicene orthodoxy while the Arian heresy, promoted by Valens, was rife in the East. To establish orthodoxy throughout the empire and to suppress the Arian heresy, Gratian and Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica on 27 February 380:
The edict was directed, not against non-Christians, but against Arian Christians. Theodosius summoned a council to meet at Constantinople in May 381, which was to be the 2nd Œcumenical Council. It reaffirmed the Nicene Creed and clarified the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Arian bishops throughout the East were replaced by orthodox bishops and Arians were expelled from Constantinople.
It is often said that the Edict of Thessalonica made Christianity the ‘official religion’ of the Roman Empire but this is misleading. It reflects a modern understanding of the world that had no meaning for people at the time. It is important to remember that, in all traditional societies, religion and government were inextricably intertwined—indeed, it is fair to say that government was a religious function. By the end of the fourth century the religion intertwined with the Empire was Christianity. This situation had developed over the course of a century. It was never ‘officially’ declared and did not need to be—it was simply an obvious fact.
Paganism was suppressed because it was the religion that had been traditionally intertwined with Roman government and it was necessary, now that it had become moribund, to disentangle it. As one example, the Olympic Games, which had always been a state function, were last celebrated in 393. Other faiths were not affected. A decree of 29 September 393 in the Codex Theodosianus declared, ‘The Jewish sect is protected by law. No synagogues shall be despoiled, and no regulation may be passed to ban Judaism, even in the name of Christianity.’
Today is the feast of St Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium.
He was born around A.D. 340 in Cæsarea (modern Kayseri, Turkey) in the province of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. He studied rhetoric at Antioch under Libanius, the famous pagan sophist who was also the teacher of St John Chrysostom, and became a barrister in Constantinople. He abandoned the practice of law in the capital, however, and returned to Cappadocia to care for his aged father.
His aunt (his father’s sister) was St Nonna, the mother of St Gregory the Theologian. Back in Cappadocia, he came to know the friends of his theologian cousin: St Basil the Great and St Basil’s younger brother, St Gregory of Nyssa, who, together with his cousin, would be known to future generations as the Three Cappadocians, the inspired theologians who gave definitive shape to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
He became the disciple of St Basil, who dedicated his treatise, ‘On the Holy Spirit,’ to him.
When in 373 St Basil was asked by the citizens of Iconium (modern Konya, Turkey) in Lycaonia, the province just to the west of Cappadocia, to find them a bishop, he proposed Amphilochius, who accepted with humility. In his pastoral office, he relied on the advice of St Basil until the latter’s death in 379.
The Emperor Theodosius the Great, who had become Augustus in the East in 379, summoned a council to meet in Constantinople in 381 to restore orthodoxy in the Church against the heresies of Eunomius, bishop of Cyzicus, and Macedonius, who had been Patriarch of Constantinople several decades earlier and who had died in 364. This came to be known as the 2nd Œcumenical Council.
Eunomius led the extreme Arian party, holding that the Son was unlike (anomœos) the Father in every way. Macedonius was a semi-Arian whose followers had formed a sect, referred to as the Pneumatomachi, which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
In company with SS. Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa, St Amphilochius attended the council. Together with the other God-bearing fathers present, they reaffirmed the Nicene declaration that the Son is consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father. They also affirmed the full divinity of the Holy Spirit, joining in the declaration of it as consubstantial with the Father and the Son.
At the council, St Amphilochius met St Jerome, who commented, ‘[he] recently read to me a book [St Basil’s?] On the Holy Spirit, arguing that He is God, that He is to be worshipped, and that He is omnipotent.’ (De viris illustribus, cap. 133)
He fell asleep in the Lord around the end of the 4th century in his episcopal see.
Occasional comments by a convert to Orthodoxy.